A Grateful Heart

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).  

If help is needed in a practical way of learning to give thanks, then begin by giving thanks for the following.

Give thanks for the food that is enjoyed. Jesus did. In Matthew 15:36 the Bible says, “And he [Jesus] took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.” The Bible tells us that food is sanctified by prayer.

In his book Folk Psalms of Faith, Ray Stedman tells of an experience Evangelist Harry A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Mr. Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Mr. Ironside invited him to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked,

“Do you have a headache?”

Ironside replied,

“No, I don’t.”

The other man asked,

“Well, is there something wrong with your food?”

Ironside replied,

“No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat.” 

The man said,

“Oh, you’re one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don’t have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!” 

Mr. Ironside said,

“Yes, you’re just like my dog. That’s what he does too!”

Give thanks for the food that is enjoyed before you eat today. Even when the world is trying to take away special meals and holidays, like Thanksgiving, offer prayer. Jesus did.

Give thanks for the blood of Christ shed for you in the great work of redemption. While contemplating His death, Jesus took the cup during His last Passover meal, “and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt 26:27-28). The blood of Christ secured the salvation of those who are the heirs of salvation. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, or forgiveness of sin. Give thanks for the blood of Christ.

Give thanks for faithful friends. Paul did. Writing to the Church of Rome the apostle instructs the congregation to “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom 16:3-4). Paul had friends who would die for him. “A friend is the first person who comes in when the whole world goes out” (Henry Durbanville). If you have a friend, pray for them. Thank God for them.

Give thanks for opportunities to witness. Paul did in 2 Corinthians 2:14. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour [fragrance] of his knowledge by us in every place.”

Give thanks for the gift of eternal life. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). There are people who will never die. They are called Christians. Billy Graham confessed to being afraid of dying, but not death. “I am not afraid of death,” he said, “because I know I have eternal life.” “Thanks, be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

Give thanks for freedom. Give thanks to God for the security of the nation. On our money we write, “In God We Trust”. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

When you give thanks for freedom give thanks to a veteran in particular whenever possible for the freedom that is enjoyed in America. Remember that freedom is not free. America is a free nation because it is the home of the brave.

When you think of brave men, remember individuals such as the Green Beret, Army Master Sergeant Matthew O. Williams.  On October 20, 2019, Matthew Williams was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Donald J. Trump.

The Medal of Honor was born during the midst of the Civil War. It was the idea of Iowa Senator James W. Grimes who, on December 9, 1861 introduced a bill designed to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of “medals of honor.” The Army followed with their own medal in 1862. Years later, the Air Force did the same. There are three versions of the Medal.

When awarded a Medal of Honor, the citation begins with these words:

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty…”

This is followed by a narrative of the great deeds that were done.

Master Sergeant Matthew O. Williams was gallant on the field of battle in Afghanistan in 2008. He did great deeds.

“Matt Williams grew up in the small town of Boerne, Texas – a very small town. He met Kate for the first time in elementary school. In college, he planned to pursue a career in law enforcement. But after 9/11, Matt decided his place was on the frontlines of the war on terror. He wanted to be the best of the best; he worked hard at it. So, after graduation, he enlisted in the Army to become a Green Beret. Matt finished his Special Forces training in August 2007, and deployed to Afghanistan by October.

On April 6th, 2008, he joined dozens of American Special Forces and Afghan commandos on a mission to take down a terrorist leader in a remote mountain village. On that cold spring morning, the soldiers arrived in helicopters and jumped 10 feet from their Chinooks into the rocky and freezing terrain of Shok Valley.

When the first Americans reached the edge of the valley, at the base of a 100-foot mountain, a handful of Special Forces scouted ahead. The lead group was 60 feet up the slope when roughly 200 insurgents savagely attacked. The terrorists filled the valley with a hail of bullets and explosions. Matt soon received word that the soldiers on the mountain were pinned down, and suffering from mounting casualties. He organized the Afghan infantry under his command, and he led a bold counter-assault to stop the enemy advance.

As machine gun fire rained down from above, Matt and his fellow American soldiers, Scott Ford and Ronald Shurer, charged up the mountain. Once they reached their trapped comrades, Matt realized that several of them were too gravely wounded to be quickly evacuated. He ran down the mountain to get support, and then climbed back up with bullets spraying all around. Not a good place to be. Again, and again, Matt exchanged fire with the enemy, and rescued his fellow soldiers. He guided his injured team sergeant, Scott Ford, down the mountain to safety.

When Matt noticed two combatants moving toward a group of the badly wounded, he immediately engaged the enemy fighters, and killed them both. But Matt was not done yet.

In order to rejoin the battle on the mountain, he and Sergeant Seth Howard scaled a sheer cliff completely exposed to attack. Matt quickly re-engaged the adversary, and shielded the injured from falling rubble, as American warplanes bombed insurgent positions above, and rocked the mountain from top to bottom. He then helped evacuate the wounded down a very, very, steep cliff.

As the terrorists continued to try to overrun their position, Matt raced back into battle. He fought for several more hours, valiantly protecting the wounded, and putting his own life in great peril to save his comrades.

Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the Battle of Shok Valley.

His ground commander later wrote:

“I’ve never seen a troop so poised, focused, and capable, during a fight.” Matt is without question, and without reservation, “one of the bravest soldiers”, and people, “I have ever met.”

But Matt wants all Americans to know that he was not alone in his heroism that day” (The White House October 30, 2019; REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP AT PRESENTATION OF THE CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR FOR MASTER SERGEANT MATTHEW WILLIAMS, U.S. ARMY).

Sergeant Matthew O. Williams is right in his observation. He was not alone. It takes the Army, Navy, Marines, Merchant Marines, the Coast Guard, and the Air Force to defend our country. It takes brave men and women from every town, and every city, committed to the principle that  “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence). Freedom is not free. It comes at a high price. If you value America’s freedom, thank a veteran for their service.

The church at Ephesus had to be taught to say, “Thank you”, time and time again. May every Christian learn to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for God and country.  It is the will of the Lord.

There is something else to be said today. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is worthy of a Medal of Honor, for Jesus fought the greatest battle of the ages on the field of conflict outside the city walls of Jerusalem in AD 30. I tell you…

“There’s a line that’s been drawn through the ages;
On that line stands the old rugged cross.

On that cross a battle is raging
For the gain of a man’s soul, or its loss.

On one side march the forces of evil,
All the demons and devils of hell;
On the other, the angels of glory,
And they meet on Golgotha’s hill.

The earth shakes with the force of the conflict;
The sun refuses to shine,
For there hangs God’s Son in the balance,
And then through the darkness He cries—

‘It is finished!’ The battle is over.

‘It is finished!’ There’ll be no more war.

‘It is finished!’ The end of the conflict.

‘It is finished!’ And Jesus is Lord!

Yet in my heart the battle was raging;
Not all pris’ners of war have come home.

These were battlefields of my own making;
I didn’t know that the war had been won.

Then I heard that the King of the Ages
Had fought all my battles for me,
And vict’ry was mine for the claiming,
And now, praise His name I am free!”

I am free from the penalty, pain, and punishment of sin.

I am free to give thanks unto God for His unspeakable Gift.

Jesus Christ is worthy of a Medal of Honor today for His conspicuous gallantry and intrepidation (fearlessness) at Calvary.

By faith, let us place in our hearts a Medal of Honor around the Lord’s neck, with a song of worship, and with a heart of thanksgiving. Let the Church sing:

 “All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.”

Edward Perronet, 1779

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